Monday, December 20, 2010

Cash premiums fall for most estates

Straits Times: Sun, Dec 19
Cash premiums demanded by sellers of resale flats are falling across most Housing Board towns since measures to cool the public housing market were introduced in August.


Twenty out of 26 Housing Board towns surveyed have seen cash-over-valuation (COVs) figures of resale flats fall by more than 10 per cent from the high levels seen in the third quarter this year.


Eight fell by 20 per cent or more, with one area - Bukit Timah - recording a huge fall of 32 per cent.


The figures are based on an analysis of data from three of the biggest property agencies - PropNex, ERA Asia-Pacific and the Dennis Wee Group (DWG) - by The Sunday Times.


The COV is the amount a buyer pays over and above the valuation of a Housing Board resale flat. It is payable only in cash.


Towns where the fall was sharpest included Punggol, Central and Marine Parade, which saw a more than 25 per cent drop in cash premiums paid.


The Sunday Times obtained a median COV figure for each town from each agency for last month. Median means half of the buyers paid a COV higher than the level and half paid an amount below that.


The average median COV figure for each area was then calculated based on the data from the three agencies and compared with the latest third-quarter statistics released by the Housing Board.


The data represents over 50 per cent of the market.


It reveals the performance of the Housing Board resale market at specific locations three months after the Government restricted ownership of Housing Board flats in an attempt to cool resale flat prices.


Prices of Housing Board flats hit a historic high in the third quarter, prompting many buyers - especially first-timers - to raise concerns that resale flats are being priced out of their reach, in part due to high COVs demanded by sellers.


Estates such as Queenstown and Bishan, and even those in suburban areas such as Punggol, recorded median COVs of between $35,000 and $45,000 in the third quarter, according to Housing Board figures.


Since then, COVs have started to come down. Earlier this month, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that Singapore's overall median COV figure was $22,000 last month - a drop of $3,000 from October.


Industry analysts said the larger drop in COVs in some areas is due to a number of factors. PropNex spokesman Adam Tan said valuations for flats in Bukit Timah, Central, Marine Parade and Queenstown are already at extremely high levels.


Falling COV numbers in these areas may mean that a price ceiling has been reached and buyers are resisting paying beyond that level, said ERA Asia-Pacific associate director Eugene Lim. He added that because there are fewer transactions in these areas, the drop is 'no surprise'.


Both analysts said COVs in Punggol had fallen for a different reason - it is where the Housing Board has launched the bulk of new flats this year. This means that there are more choices for buyers there.


'For those who are eyeing Punggol and have the patience, they can go for new flats or executive condominiums.


'For example, you can pick up a three-bedroom unit at (executive condominium) Prive for about $720,000 and pay a 5 per cent booking fee of $36,000, which is less than the Housing Board's median COV for the third quarter for that area,' said Mr Lim.


The fall in COVs in some areas like Bishan and Kallang/Whampoa has been less pronounced, possibly due to their proximity to the city centre. The estates experienced a 13.3 per cent and 9.7 per cent drop respectively.


DWG senior group director Chris Koh said: 'Prices in these towns normally hold well because they are sought after.'


Another popular estate, Tampines, recorded a relatively small drop of about 8 per cent. Mr Koh said this can be attributed to the high demand for flats in the area: 'Tampines has always been a jewel of the east, with its business and shopping hub.'


Although almost all the towns registered a dip, COVs in Toa Payoh saw a surprising rise of 14.3 per cent.


Both DWG and Propnex said this could be an anomaly. Mr Koh said it may be because more large flats with particularly high COVs were sold in the area last month.


Despite the general dip in COVs, some first-timers The Sunday Times spoke to said they were still being priced out of the market.


Consultant Jerry Teo, 28, a Woodlands resident looking to buy a flat closer to town, said: 'Even though (COVs) are dropping slightly, the valuation is still high, so the total cost is still beyond my reach.'


Mr Colin Tan, research and consultancy director of property firm Chesterton Suntec International, said the drop in COVs may be more gradual than some had anticipated. This may be because of an upward pressure on resale flat prices due to the fact that there is more demand than supply.


The Housing Board is expected to release an estimate of resale flat prices for the fourth quarter on Jan 3.


Mr Nicholas Mak, of SLP International Property Consultants, said COV median forecasts for the fourth quarter this year were between $23,000 and $26,000.


darylc@sph.com.sg


jcheam@sph.com.sg


'For those who are eyeing Punggol and have the patience, they can go for new flats or executive condominiums.'


ERA Asia-Pacific associate director Eugene Lim


'Even though (COVs) are dropping slightly, the valuation is still high, so the total cost is still beyond my reach.'


Consultant Jerry Teo, 28, a Woodlands resident looking to buy a flat closer to town

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